Timberview shooting shows pulling a gun is a risky mistake, maybe also a costly one

·3 min read

No gun owner ever wants to use it.

That’s because shooting anyone can cost not only jail time but also upward of $100,000.

Pulling a gun can be a six-figure mistake. Texas law allows some exceptions, but generally there is only one reason to draw or shoot: to save a life.

If that wasn’t clear before shots echoed in an Arlington schoolhouse the other day, it should be now.

Those gunshots didn’t end a conflict.

They only moved it to criminal and civil court.

Now, juries will decide how and whether to hold an 18-year-old Timberview High School student, Timothy Simpkins, responsible in connection with the shootings of 15-year-old Zacchaeus Selby, a 14-year-old girl and English teacher Calvin Pettitt.

When you peel back the layers of legal and political debate around the reports of schoolhouse bullying, a rolling fistfight and a handgun fetched from a backpack, the bottom line remains:

If a life isn’t at stake, don’t shoot.

You can’t afford it.

“You never pull a gun unless a life is in danger,” said Temple activist C.J. Grisham, a leader of Open Carry Texas and one of the state’s most aggressive bulldogs against gun laws.

“Your gun is a last resort. If you pull a gun, you’re going to be looked at as the threat.”

A student pulling a gun not only puts others’ lives at risk, but also his own.

Any law officer on the scene would have shot Simpkins. End of discussion.

A shooter caught by police later faces criminal charges. If anyone was hurt or traumatized, like in Arlington, that also means a risk of civil lawsuits.

Two Fort Worth lawyers from different law firms estimated the potential cost of a shooting as at least $100,000.

“A criminal case might take 24 hours or 24 months — you have to go in and argue to the grand jury,” said lawyer Justin Sparks, who often represents gun owners and state handgun licensees.

Sparks remembered when he defended one of two “grumpy old men” neighbors. They got upset with each other and when one drew a gun from his car door, it turned into a year-long criminal trial.

All this used to be emphasized in state training. But that was back when Texas required 10 hours of lessons for adults seeking a handgun license.

Then, lawmakers cut the training to four hours.

This year, Texas quit requiring training or a license at all to carry a handgun.

So nobody talks about how much firing it might cost.

“There’s not enough time devoted anymore to teaching people about the severity of using a gun,” Sparks said.

(True, Texans under 21 can’t legally buy a gun anyway. But they also never hear about the potential risk.)

“The state needs to do more to educate about gun ownership,” Grisham said.

There’s one simple lesson that doesn’t take long:

Never shoot unless you absolutely have to.

You can’t take it back.